This collection comprises land deeds relating to the Parish of Walcot, being the lands of the Manor of Walcot, predominantly from the time it was owned by the Rivers alias Rivers-Gay Family. It contains many deeds relating to the Georgian expansion of Bath, including Charlotte Street, the Royal Crescent, St. James' Square and others.
Manor of Walcot
Walcot was originally part of the Barton Farm of Bath, which belonged to the Crown but was held by the Bath Priory as part of the Monastic Grange from the mid-13th Century. The Monastic Grange included the whole of the Bathforum Hundred of 18 parishes; North Stoke, Kelston, Weston, Langridge, Woolley, Swainswick, St. Catherine's, Batheaston, Bath Ford, Bathampton, Walcot, Charlcombe, Bathwick, Claverton, Lyncombe with Widcombe, Monkton Combe, South Stoke, and Freshford.
After the dissolution of the Monasteries the grange was granted out by the Crown in pieces, with the Grange Farm and former demesne lands of the Bath Priory in Lyncombe, Widcombe, Walcot and Barton being granted to Sir William Herbert by Edward VI in 1547. The grant was likely obtained due to Herbert's influence over Edward VI as his guardian, brought about by Herbert's wife Anne Parr being sister to Catherine Parr.
At the time of the grant to William Herbert the estate was Manorial and included the Court Leet and View of Frankpledge of the Bathforum Hundred. However, by 1612 the Manorial aspects appear to have returned to the Crown (possibly as a result of the 1590 expansion of the city coming to include Walcot), as the Barton and Bathforum Hundred with its Court Leet and View of Frankpledge was again granted out on 22 April 9 James I [1611/1612] to Sir Richard Grubham, Knight, of Kent, and eventually passed to the Manor of Weston of which no records are known to have survived [see 'Bath Freeman's Estate', Bundle 99, Abstract of Title to Barton and Bathforum].
The estate passed through several hands over the years; William Herbert transfered the Manor of Walcot to Mathew Colthurst, the owner of the ruins of Bath Abbey and various lands in and around Bath, in 1548 in exchange for Colthurst's manor in Wiltshire which adjoinded to Herbert's other estates there. In 1591 Sir Edmund Colthurst sold the manor to Sir George Snigge, which was then inherited by his son William Snigge. Being in financial difficulties in the 1630s William assigned the estate to Mary Jackson, his sister, for 80 years with the understanding that she would pay his debts. Shortly thereafter the Kingsmead area was sold to the Hayne Family [see Accession 0028F].
By the late 1650s the Estate had passed to the Saunders family by the marriage of Thomas Saunders to his wife Mary, who held the land for the residue of 80 years, this may have been Mary Jackson or possibly her daughter. The estate then became settled on Robert Gay in 1699 by his marriage to Mary Saunders. Robert Gay was a Surgeon of London and Bath who later served as M.P. for Bath from 1720-22 and again from 1727-34. Mary Saunders appears to have died by 1708 as the History of Parliament records Robert as being married to Margaret daughter of Sir Edward Farmer of Cannons, Essex, by this date.
Upon Robert Gay's death in 1737 he left the estate to his daughter Margaret Gay who married Thomas Garrard in 1738. Dying in c.1764 with no children Margaret Garrard bequeathed the estate to her brother-in-law Sir Benet Garrard, Baronet, with a request to convey the estate to Sir Peter Rivers, Baronet, contingent upon him taking up the name and arms of Gay. Sir Benet Garrard died in 1767 leaving by his will the Walcot estate to Sir Peter Rivers.
In a letter of 20 July 1767 from Sir Peter Rivers to William Drake (one of the trustees of Sir Benet Garrard's will), Sir Peter describes Margaret Garrard as ''my cousin Mrs Garrard'' [see 0270/33, Transcript of letter from Sir P. Rivers to Wm. Drake.]
The Rivers family, originally of Kent, traces its history as far back as Sir Bartholomew Rivers, Knight, in the reign of Edward IV. Including several knights, a Commander in the King's Army, a steward of a ducal estate, a Lord-Mayor of London, and an M.P., the family gained a Baronetcy in 1622 from King James I, becoming Baronets of Chafford the family estate in Kent. The Chafford estate remained the seat of the family until the early 1700s with the death of Sir George Rivers, 4th Baronet, whose sons had all died. The Chafford estate was left to his daughters while the baronetcy passed to his nephew John Rivers, son of Sir George's younger brother Thomas, a Doctor of London and Winchester. Sir Peter Rivers inherited the Baronetcy upon the death of his brother Sir John in 1743.
Despite Sir Peter Rivers inheriting the Manor of Walcot in 1767, Winchester and the nearby town of Martyr Worthy in the county of Southampton [Hampshire] remained the main residence of most of the family. Both Sir Peter and his younger son Henry, later Sir Henry, became Reverends at Winchester Cathedral, where many of the family were also buried.
Upon Sir Peter Rivers Gay's death in 1790 the estate passed to Sir Thomas Rivers Gay eldest son of Sir Peter with Martha Coxe, daughter of William Coxe of London. Sir Thomas, dying in 1805 with no children, bequeathed the estate to his mother Dame Martha Rivers Gay, who managed the estate until 1834 when she settled it on the then Sir Henry Rivers, her younger son, before dying shortly thereafter in 1835. Sir Henry had married in 1812 to Charlotte Eales, daughter of Samuel Eales of Hursley, county of Southampton, with whom he had 6 sons and 8 daughters. Upon his death in 1851 the estate passed to his eldest surviving son Sir James Francis Rivers.
At the time of Sir Henry Rivers' death the estate was mortgaged to its greatest extent, at a combined debt of £46,340.10s, by modern standards this is approximately £5million in terms of relative purchasing power.
Sir James Francis Rivers married Catherine Eastcott a Widow, of Bath, in 1867 but died childless in 1869, the estate passed to his only surviving brother Sir Henry Chandos Rivers who then died a year later in 1870 also childless; with no male heir the Baronetcy was therefore extinguished.
The estate was bequeathed, in trust, by Sir Henry Chandos Rivers to Thomas Frederick Inman, a solicitor of Bath, who then managed the estate as a trustee on behalf of Sir Henry Chandos Rivers' surviving sisters and their children until 1903 when the trusteeship was passed to Henry Mills Skrine and the Rev. Prebendary Benjamin Norton Thompson. From the early 20th Century the estate began to be sold, with Sale auctions known to have been held in 1908, 1919, and 1920; the final parts of the estate that still belonged to descendants of Sir Henry Chandos' sisters are believed to have been sold in the 1980s.
- Bath Record Office, 0276. 'Plan of the Rivers Estate in Bath', 1908
- Bath Record Office, 0028F. 'Copy Deeds and Documents, land at Kingsmeade'
- Bath Central Library [GB0256] MSS 1616-1703. 'Garrard family, Baronets, of Lamer: deeds and estate corresp. 1693-1772 for the Walcot estate, Bath.'
- Bath Record Office, Acc.0270. 'Correspondence, John Wood with Garrard Family'
- Many deeds held by the Bath Record Office have connections to the estate, but have been deposited or donated by the later owners of the individual properties. These are usually catalogued under the repective property names, but can be located on our online catalogue by a keyword search for the names of Rivers, Rivers Gay, Garrard, Inman, etc.